Verbs in time clauses and conditionals follow the same patterns as in other clauses except:

  • In clauses with time words like when, after, until we often use the present tense forms to talk about the future:

I’ll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

  •  in conditional clauses with if or unless we often use the present tense forms to talk about the future:

We won’t be able to go out if it is raining.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.
I will come tomorrow unless I have to look after the children.

  • We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

I’ll come home when I will finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain. rains.
It will be nice to see Peter when he will get home gets home.
You must wait here until your father will come comes.

  • but we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.


"if" clauses and hypotheses

Some clauses with if are like hypotheses so we use past tense forms to talk about the present and future.

We use the past tense forms to talk about the present in clauses with if :

  • for something that has not happened or is not happening:
He could get a new job if he really tried   =  He cannot get a job because he has not tried.
If Jack was playing they would probably win  = Jack is not playing so they will probably not win.
If I had his address I could write to him  = I do not have his address so I cannot write to him.

 We use the past tense forms to talk about the future in clauses with if:

  • for something that we believe or know will not happen:

 

We would go by train if it wasn’t so expensive  = We won’t go by train because it is too expensive.
 I would look after the children for you at the weekend if I was at home  = I can’t look after the children because I will not be at home.

 

  •  to make suggestions about what might happen:

If he came tomorrow we could borrow his car.
If we invited John, Mary would bring Angela.

When we are talking about something which did not happen in the past we use the past perfect in the if clause and a modal verb in the main clause:

 

If you had seen him you could have spoken to him  = You did not see him so you could not speak to him
You could have stayed with us if you had come to London  = You couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If we hadn’t spent all our money we could take a holiday.  = We have spent all our money so we can’t take a holiday
If I had got the job we would be living in Paris  = I did not get the job so we are not living in Paris.

 

 If the main clause is about the past we use a modal with have

 

If you had seen him you could have spoken to him.  = You did not see him so you could not speak to him.
You could have stayed with us if you had come to London.  = You couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If you had invited me I might have come.  = You didn’t invite me so I didn’t come.

 

If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have:

 

If I had got the job we would be living in Paris now.  = I did not get the job so we are not living in Paris now.
If you had done your homework you would know the answer.  = You did not do your homework so you do not know the answer.

 

 

Exercise

Exercise

Comments

I have a question. With conditionals how do I know when to use "going to" or "will"? Example: "if it stops raining I will go shopping" or "if it stops raining I'm going to go shopping". Thank you.

Hello Mel.acid,

The meanings of 'going to' and 'will' are the same in a conditional clause as in any other sentence. Generally, we use 'will' for a spontaneous decision, a prediction, a promise or somethng which we are certain about. We use 'going to' when we are expressing an intention or a plan, or when we are describing the logical result of something we can see.

You can read more about future forms on this page and this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How do I use these structures :
It was only when / it wasn't until
I searched a lot and i couldn't find anything about them . I just want to know how to use them and where I can read about them

Hello uchiha itache,

These structures are usually completed with a that-clause:

It was only when I arrived that I realised it was so late.

It wasn't until I arrived that I realised it was so late.

 

They can be used with other time reference than the past:

It is only when I arrive that I realise it is so late.

It isn't until I arrive that I realise it is so late.

 

They can also be used with inversion for emphasis:

Only when I arrived did I realise it was so late.

Not until I arrived did I realise it was so late.

 

The structures with 'only' sounds rather formal and literary.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you a lot, Sir
I got it .
But could you mention any reference which has these parts of grammar? I really need it for my study and exams.
I have a lot of grammar books and I couldn't find anything about this structure.
So I just need a book or website..just anything

Hi uchiha itache,

I'm afraid we don't make suggestion as to books. We try to remain neutral as far as that goes.

If you do a search for only when not until then you'll see a lot of pages with relevant information, and you can compare multiple explanations and comments.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I get it.
Thanks a million

hello every teacher
i have question.
i see someones use one form while talking
"if subject would v object,main sentence"
for example,
if she would marry me,I would be happy.
would comes in both if clause and main sentence.
is it grammatically correct?

could you explain the usage of "modal in if clause"?
for example,if i should,if i could,etc
thanks very much

Hello Wanlidadi,

It is possible to use a modal verb after 'if'. When you use 'will' or 'would' after 'if' you add a sense of agreement. For example:

If you will go there, I will be grateful = If you agree to go there...

It can be used as a particularly polite form, or to emphasise that a person's agreement is required.

 

'If... can/could...' has a similar use. It means something like 'If it is/were possible...' and is a polite form.

 

'If you should choose...' is a very polite alternative to 'If you choose...' and makes the event (choosing) seem less likely. It has a similar meaning to 'If you happen to choose....'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thanks very much.I have been confused with this problem for long time.Now I learn a lot.

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